As a child, there was one thing my mother could do that would simultaneously make my blood run cold and my vision blur with tears: The Eyebrow.
I always knew my mother’s stages of agitation. If she middle-named me (“Ev-e-line-Ma-RIE!“), I still had time to continue whatever I was doing before Nuclear Meltdown and my rear-end would look like Chernobyl. But the moment she became very very quiet and turned her eyes on me with one arched brow and eyes staring daggers into my very soul, I knew it was only moments before I was going to meet Jesus in my ratty flip-flops and orange 80s plaid polyester pants if I did not immediately cease and desist my antics. Only once did I ever test that Eyebrow. Once was all it took. I was a fast learner.
As I got older and into my teens, I am thankful to say my mother had less cause to Eyebrow me. Of course, I was also much better at hiding my misdeeds from her (or so I thought). I didn’t do much to earn her rebuke but I did have occasion to study the way she used this powerful tool to her advantage. She used it on my sisters, she used it on the students who rode the school bus she drove, she used it on my father, she even used it on wayward children in the grocery store. It was this power she exerted over perfect strangers’ children that got me thinking that she might be on to something.
I began perfecting her craft.
When my husband and I first married, I tried using it on an actual person instead of the mirror. The power was heady! With one look, I had him apologizing for wearing his shoes across a freshly mopped floor and then offering to re-mop the floor himself. I tried other times, and before I knew it, he was picking up his own clothes, putting down the toilet seat, carrying groceries in from the car–once, he even apologized for snoring. While he was still asleep! True story. The Eyebrow worked on the kids just as well, if not faster (fewer years of correcting bad behaviors are needed for youngsters as opposed to husbands).
Clearly, I was ready for the Big Leagues. I had practiced at home and was ready to take The Power of the Brow on the road. I began putting it into practice in my classroom.
The difference was astounding. Mind you, my students never behaved poorly–I think they respected me enough not to really abuse me. I was, however, less than a decade older than they were and I was still being asked for my student ID by the lunch ladies. I needed something to catapult me into that realm of authority, something that would tell people who passed me in the school building that I was a teacher.
Since it worked so well for me with my own students, I decided to try it one day while walking in the hallways. Three boys were behind me yelling obscenities, pushing each other, and simply being loud. I casually turned to face them and, Eyebrow engaged, merely said, “Boys.”
Many profuse apologies and promises to be quiet later, the boys scurried off, blaming each other for “getting us in trouble with that Teacher.” It was then I knew this gift was an enormous responsibility that in the wrong hands could be exploited, and it was up to me to handle it with care.
As a classroom management tool, I couldn’t ask for better. In fact, I really only have three classroom management tools to reign in the attention of 35 students or deal with wayward behavior, all of which I learned from my mother: Middle-Naming, Complete Silence, and The Eyebrow. I have never had to send a student to the principal’s office, I have never written a student up for insubordination, and I have never had a student blatantly disrespect me. At least not after the first attempt.